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Maker Stories

This Just In-spiration: Meet Sashee Chandran

April 20, 2015

Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the person behind the product.

What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Sashee Chandran, the maker behind our new Tea Drop Sampler.

Sashee Chandran | UncommonGoods

Photo by Diego Jimenez/@dejota3

When did you know you wanted to work in tea?
I was always drawn to the intimate and communal nature of tea, and its ability to strengthen the bonds of friends and strangers alike. Throughout my life, I have fantasized about owning a tea shop. I even kept a little booklet on hand for when I felt inspired to write down what my tea shop would serve. Later, through my natural inclination to make, share and talk tea with others, I came across many who found the traditional tea rituals too daunting or time consuming. With these challenges to overcome, Tea Drops was born. It would be the first tea to create an all encompassing experience with the rich taste and tradition of loose tea, and a pinch of raw organic sugar for a no-fuss preparation.

What was the most exciting thing about becoming an entrepreneur?
The most exciting part is knowing that on a daily basis, I am tackling the challenge of making tea more accessible and enjoyable to people, and little by little I’m making progress on that goal. It isn’t about meeting one huge goal, it’s really about accomplishing small victories along the way. My team and I use the hashtag #smallvictories a lot, to celebrate something as simple as an easy craft fair set up to gaining a new retail account.

What does your typical day in your workspace look like?
I’m incredibly lucky to work out of a certified kitchen in the beautiful hills of Los Gatos, California. We peer out our kitchen window and have a stunning view of deer, trees, and other natural beauty as we grind our organic tea and spices. We are embraced by the delcious scents of tea and spices all day. We also have a packaging area where we prep and wrap all of our teas by hand so they are ready to be shipped and enjoyed by you!

Shashee Chandran | UncommonGoods

Photo by Diego Jimenez/@dejota3

Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
I take my Khordz Mug everywhere with me. I drink an insane amount of tea per day (10-15 cups), so it’s critical I have a portable tea cup that can go anywhere with me, no matter what the activity. It’s like my blanky.

Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think he/she would say?
“Oooooh. How coool. YUMMMY, too.”

We actually have a lot of kids who come up to our booth at various craft shows, and we always demo how our Tea Drops dissolve in hot water. They are both amazed, intrigued, and love the taste as well. It’s wonderful to see parents sharing the love of tea so early on.

Sashee Chandran | UncommonGoods

Right photo by Diego Jimenez/@dejota3


What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
I actually have many. Here are a few of my favorites:

“As you walk, the way appears.”Rumi, Persian poet and Sufi master

Fear is obviously a huge factor that can hold you back. I always love being reminded that I do not need to have all of the answers when I continue on my journey. I have to have faith that guidance will appear the more entrenched I become in my path/work.

“I don’t want no mediocre.” –T.I., Rapper

My small team and I often blast this song when prepping for a show or order, because quite frankly, we can’t tolerate medicore.

“Nothing in this world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Genius will not. Education will not. Persistence and dedication alone are omnipotent.” – President Calvin Coolidge

It’s pretty self-explanatory – persistence is key. Especially when I feel intimidated, I always have to remember that.

Video courtesy of Ezra Productions

Buy the Tea Sampler | UncommonGoods

Gift Guides

Gift Lab: How to Make Music by Playing Wine Glasses

September 27, 2013
Major Scale Musical Wine Glasses | UncommonGoods

As a developer of the Major Scale Musical Wine Glasses™, my knowledge of the product is quite comprehensive, but this was my first chance to test a random unit straight off the production floor. In developing these musical glasses, we looked for a glass that would allow for a full A major scale, allowing for more versatile music-making. We used a high-quality lead-free crystal glass here to ensure the best resonance we could achieve.

I’m not a big wine drinker, but you’ll find me sneaking a swig of water every now and again – so I’m conducting this experiment with water as an alternative. I try to keep practice on my violin, but I’m much more likely to produce something resembling music with my finger on these glasses than with my bow on strings – so I’m looking forward to the chance to actually hit the right notes for a change.

Musical Wine Glass Packaging | Uncommon Goods

Due to variations in glass we knew absolute, orchestral perfection was a bit too aspirational, but we have been pleased to find that the fill lines correspond quite nicely to the note indicated. My hypothesis is that I’ll have a pretty happy match today.

Fill ‘er up! I poured to the first note – an ‘A,’ moistened my finger in another glass to allow for smooth movement around the rim, and round my finger went firmly in a circular motion. As I draw my finger around the rim, the alternating slipping and sticking creates a vibration pattern in the glass. The speed of vibration, meanwhile, is affected by the volume of liquid in the glass, and different vibrations will produce different notes. The results of my first attempt?

Playing Music on Wine Glasses

A lovely ‘A’ note resonates through the dining room, accompanied by a hypnotic ripple along the surface of the wine. As you can see…a successful ‘A’!

'A' Note

I toast to a successful first pour and continue on my journey through the A Major scale.

I poured a taller glass and around I went again.

Major Scale Musical Wine Glass | UncommonGoods

Crosschecking with another tuner – a direct hit! SuccEss with a capital ‘E’.

'E' Note


Though slight variations in glass will yield somewhat different performance, a random test proved more than satisfactory to my unprofessional, yet music-appreciating ears. Very content and ready to wet my whistle, I toast to beautiful music with my fiancée and Franklin Broccoli, our almost-real pet bulldog.

Musical Wine Glass Toast

To see and hear these uncommon instruments make music with your own eyes and ears, check out this video of me playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.


A Year’s Worth of Winning Designs

January 4, 2013

Happy New Year! We’re excited to see what 2013 will bring, and we have big plans for the next 12 months. We’re planning more sneak peeks Inside the Artist’s Studio, interviews with designers from across the country, behind the scenes looks at what goes on here at UncommonGoods, great gift ideas, and of course, brand new design challenges! But, before we announce our first challenge of the year, we’re taking a look back on the great designs that came to us through our 2012 design challenges and the people who created them.

Last Spring we were already thinking Summer! Our first design challenge focused on sustainable picnic ware from Susty Party. We asked illustrators to send us their summer picnic-themed art, and we saw a big batch of submissions celebrating fun in the sun!

Denae Douglas’ Bicycle design was the judges’ favorite, earning her the grand prize. Her blue bike was stamped on eco-friendlier disposable bagasse plates and cups perfect for picnicking. (We know it’s still January, and it’s cold outside, but we do have a few sets left if you’re looking to stock up for Spring!)

All of the illustrations that came rolling in with the Summer Picnic Challenge had us in the mood for great art, so for our next call for entries we asked artists to send us their artwork for the Art Contest. We asked our online community to pick their favorites, then sent the top 5 designs to our judges for review. In the end, Mathew Amey’s “Jump Off” leaped into our lineup.

Matthew’s piece was limited edition, and didn’t take long to sell out, but art fans need not worry; our buyers loved his work so much, they’re adding more of his illustrations to our assortment.

After the Art Contest we switched it up just a bit, from art you hang to art you take on the go! Our iPhone Art Case Design Challenge was a huge success. We received a slew of votes and comments in the semi-final round and heard some wonderful feedback from the judges in the finals.

The judges loved the techie feel of Naomi Meller’s computer design and chose it to win the grand prize, but our buyers weren’t quite ready to let go of all of that other great artwork! Several design challenge submissions were selected for our iPhone Art Case Collection and became uncommon goods!

Speaking of art on the go, we couldn’t have a year of design challenges without including a call for wearable art–A.K.A. Jewelery–entries! The winner of our 2012 Jewelry Design Challenge was a little different. Not only do we love Kim Jakum’s excellent craftsmanship and fine attention to detail, we also couldn’t stop talking about the unique (and oh-so-sweet!) personalization element of the piece. Kim’s Personalized Children’s Signature Necklace gives the wearer a chance to capture their little ones’ own handwriting in sterling silver.

Then, last Fall, we switched gears again and asked our design community to think bicycles! Submissions to our Bicycle Lovers Design Challenge included helpful bike tools, custom pieces to deck your ride, cycling wear, and art made out of reclaimed bicycle parts, like Laura White’s winning Bicycle Cog Suncatchers.

Laura’s pieces aren’t only beautiful, they also celebrate the sport of cycling and are made from reclaimed materials, which is always a plus here. In fact, we love reclaiming, recycling, and reusing so much that we decided to build a design challenge around the idea. Our final design challenge of the year focused on upcycling, and we saw some seriously clever creations made from materials that would have otherwise been discarded.

The story behind winner Susan Harbourt’s Forget-Me-Not necklace is almost as compelling as the piece itself! The beautiful copper flowers and the wires keeping them in place actually started out as part of the original electrical wiring in her Edwardian era country home. When she and her husband renovated the house, Susan saved the copper and turned it into a winning design.

Susan’s story of creating something new out of something old is surely inspiring, as are the stories of many of our 2012 winners and semi-finalists. If you’re interested in learning even more about what it takes to be design challenge champ, check out our previous roundup for more success stories or check out these tips from a former design challenge winner.

We hope this stroll around the winner’s circle put you in the mood for creative new creations, whether you’re a designer yourself, or a just someone who loves uncommon design! We’re certainly looking forward to a new year full of new goods. If you’re interested in taking part in an uncommon design challenge, see what we have coming up in the next couple months and stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook to see when and how to submit.

January – Garden Decor Design Challenge
February – Woodworking Design Challenge
March – Art Contest 2013

The Uncommon Life

Positively Inspiring Reusable Graphics

October 30, 2012

Positivity is contagious. Sharing a kind word, a thank you note, or even a smile can start a chain reaction. With this in mind, Amy Humes created her Positive Message Graphics, reusable stickers that let you spread happiness, inspiration, peace, and the power within. We love Amy’s idea so much, we decided to take her message to the web. Feel free to pin, tweet, like, and share these encouraging buttons as reminders that optimism really can go viral.

These Reusable Positive Message Graphics are available as a set of 4 large canvas stickers, so you can place them anywhere where you or a loved one may look when in need of words of encouragement.

The Uncommon Life

Goldilocks & the Three Bears: An Uncommon Story

October 9, 2012

There once was a beautiful collection of handmade children’s accessories by Jen List and Stacy Waddington. The story began with The Three Little Pigs, but those little pink piggies aren’t the only adorable animals in Storybook Land. Before we get to the part where everyone lives happily ever after, we’d like to introduce you to some more cuddly creatures, the stars of chapter two of our uncommon fairy tale, The Three Bears. (And their friend, Goldilocks, of course!)

Storybook Puppets | UncommonGoods

Storybook Purse | UncommonGoods

Storybook Slippers | UncommonGoods

Storybook | Necklace

Storybook Blanket | UncommonGoods

Gift Guides

The Three Little Pigs: An Uncommon Story

October 3, 2012

Once upon a time our buyers discovered a collection of whimsical children’s accessories from Jen List and Stacy Waddington. The short version is that we fell head over heels in love with these handmade upcycled fabric pieces and lived happily ever after. Of course, as in every fairy tale, there’s a little more to the story. So without further ado, the first chapter of our Storybook Collection, The Three Little Pigs.

But story time isn’t over just yet. The tale continues in chapter two: Goldilocks and the Three Bears.


The Community Comment that Caught our Eyes & Won the Prize!

August 30, 2012

Community feedback has always been important to us when it comes to making design decisions, improving our products, and providing a great customer experience. Over a year ago, we launched our community voting app to make it even easier for our community to share their questions, comments and suggestions with us. In that time, we’ve added some great products to our assortment. So, we decided to say thanks for helping us pick winning goods with the chance to win some!

Eight lucky voters were chosen at random to take home each of the products up for voting during our contest week. We congratulate those who shared their votes and are now among the first to own these uncommon designs!

One winner also took home a $50 UncommonGoods gift certificate for having the best comment, as chosen by our buyers. But before we announce the winning quote, we’re pleased to share a few other comments that made us smile.

Jessica proved that she is quite design-savvy, with several comments that our buyers found helpful (and poetic).

She praised the craftsmanship in the Teardrop Serving Board and may have helped some members of our voting community see the Petal Necklace in a new way.

We also loved this comment from Pam, who told us exactly what she loves about the Glass Fish Straws.

Chantal voted thumbs down, but we still chose her comment as one of our favorites. We appreciate honest, constructive feedback and hers was just that!

And that brings us to the comment that our buyers picked to win the prize. Amy’s thumbs up let us know she liked the Chalkboard Tablet, but her comment provided some truly useful advice.

We thank Amy for her thoughtful suggestion, and congratulate her on winning the $50 gift certificate!

Remember, we add new items to our community voting app each week, so don’t forget to stop by and tell us what you think of the latest uncommon designs!


Noteworthy Design: Wedding Wishes

June 8, 2012

Picking a personal wedding gift is tricky. It has to be sentimental, but not too cheesy. Functional, but with more appeal than the stereotypical kitchen appliance. And, of course, it should be something the couple will cherish for years to come. Our community agrees, David Voorhees’ Personalized Wedding Wishes Vase has it all.

Time and skill go into creating each of these wheel-formed, hand-decorated pieces, but using the finished product is actually quite simple. Each vase comes with a wedding poem (written by Voorhees) and blank sheets for writing your own wedding wishes.

The couple can use the vase instead of a traditional guest book, or place it near the guest book table. As guests enter the reception, they are asked to write their very own special messages to the couple and drop them into the vase for the newlyweds to read on their first anniversary. Since the bottom of the vase is perforated, the artwork doesn’t have to be destroyed for the messages to be enjoyed a year later.

Our buyers loved the handmade vase the moment they laid eyes on it, but wanted a little “relationship advice” before making the commitment to carrying this uncommon good. Our voters agreed that the custom creation is certainly something special.

“This is a really great idea, beautiful and made in the USA,” Christie told us.

Renee agreed, “I think it sounds like a great idea, and gives lots of warm thoughts on the 1st anniversary…”

“I love the idea of opening this on the couple’s first anniversary! The perforated bottom is fabulous, since I would hate to wreck the vessel otherwise,” said Alli.

Now Voorhee’s design is an UncommonGood, and it’s receiving fantastic reviews from those celebrating the marriages of loved ones in their lives.

“This was the perfect answer for a wedding gift for a couple who were older, found love again, had two households to contend with and needed no more appliances or other like items,” explained Judy the aunt from Long Beach, CA. “Family and friends were able to write notes they will open in a year. What a nice way to wish a new happy couple on their way.”

Mary from Ashville, NC also shared a 5-star review: “This is my absolute favorite wedding gift to give! It is a beautifully hand thrown vase that has a personalized message on one side with a floral design hand painted on the other side. At the reception, guests are encouraged to write a personal hand written message to the couple on paper and put it into the Wedding Wish Vase. Then, a year later, on the couples first wedding anniversary, they open the vase and read all the messages the guests wrote to them on their wedding night! How awesome!! This is such a lovely, unique, personalized, meaningful wedding gift.”

We’re proud to see such wonderful feedback coming in for such a clever and beautiful handmade piece. We’re looking forward to feedback from happy couples as they open their Wedding Wishes Vases to read warm messages and words of wisdom in years to come!

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